Since the Hotel Transylvania franchise was launched in 2012 with the charming original film, the series has been based around the funny and often dysfunctional relationship between Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler), his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her human love Jonathan (Andy Samberg), with the latter two marrying and having a child between the first and second movie.
Now in the upcoming third film, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, the family takes a break from the hotel business and heads out on a vacation of their own — on a monsters-only cruise ship pointed, of course, at the Bermuda Triangle. Drac hopes to find romance on the big boat, but is not prepared for the captain and cruise director, Erika (Kathryn Hahn), to be the great-granddaughter of his old nemesis, Abraham Van Helsing.
Samberg and Gomez are back, along with Sandler and many other key voices, and the duo at the heart of the series recently turned up at a Sony Animation presentation in Los Angeles to preview the film for reporters in a roundtable conversation. Den of Geek was there as well to cover what they had to say (edited for length and clarity):
What do you like most about how far your characters have come in this story? When this story started, you were just two young teenagers in love, and now you’re married and have a family, and going on this trip together.
Andy Samberg: I like that, too. I mean, it’s definitely for me lined up almost identically with how that has gone down in my real life.
Selena Gomez: That’s so nice.
Samberg: But also I think it’s kind of a little bit of an anomaly in an animated movie. Usually there’s not like huge leaps of life changes and that kind of thing. I enjoy that as a viewer certainly.
Gomez: I think it’s fun. I feel comfortable with everyone. It just feels like you’re getting back with old friends and doing it. I mean, I haven’t seen (Samberg) in six years, but I enjoy every time I’m with Andy.
Does the process change? Is there a big difference between the recording sessions that you did for the first movie versus ones you did with this one?
Samberg: It just moves a little more quickly, I think, is the main difference. Similar to any show or movie sequel when you have shorthand with the creatives and the characters. You know what they are. You know what the voice is supposed to sound like. You fall into it a lot faster. There’s less experimenting cause you know what you want to get more.
Gomez: You know what’s funny, though, is my voice changed. I was probably 17 or 18 when I did the first one.
Samberg: You finished puberty.
Gomez: Yeah. The voice just got lower and lower, but I watched the first one and I can’t go that high anymore. So it actually helps to my benefit that they are growing up.
When you see the finished product, do you see any of yourselves or your personal mannerisms or facial expressions in these characters at all?
Samberg: A little bit. I think for the first one they would film us more while we were recording for that reason. But yeah, it’s more like, once you see how crazy they go with the expressions, you try and match that with your voice as opposed to the other way around, I think.
So what does one do when they go on vacation to the Bermuda Triangle?
Samberg: This is the movie that finally answers that question. It’s going to kill off a lot of, you know, cable specials about what the Bermuda Triangle really is, cause now we’re gonna know factually.
Do you guys have any family vacations horror stories that are kind of similar to this movie and what you’ve done here?
Gomez: My family vacations were just, like taking a drive to San Antonio. We didn’t really have much exposure outside of Texas, so it was a lot of basketball games. My dad really wanted me to be a boy so he would just take me to San Antonio Spurs. That was great. There’s nothing funny about it, but that was kind of my vacation growing up.
Samberg: Did he make his peace with it eventually?
Gomez: I don’t think so. No, he wants me to, like, play golf with him still. It’s like, I can’t.
Samberg: Family trips. I mostly used the bathroom. A lot of barfing. Winding roads. Small child nausea. We had a Volvo station wagon, and we had the flip up seats in the back that faced backwards. I don’t think those should be allowed.
The footage that spoke the most to me was the Gremlin Airlines scene. Have you guys ever been on a plane where you’re like, “I’m not so sure about this”?
Samberg: Most of my job. I feel like the older I get, the more I’m afraid of flying. When I was younger, I’d just be like, “Yeah, this’ll work. I trust everyone.” And now it’s like, “Uh oh” every time there’s turbulence.
Gomez: I don’t know. I’m kind of like, “If I go, I go.” You know?
Samberg: I’m gonna try to be more like Selena.
Will Mavis be helping poor, lonely Dracula at all in his journey to meet someone special?
Gomez: I think, like, actually in real life when my dad and my mom split up, I was very much like, I didn’t want anyone with him. I was younger. This wasn’t recently because I want him to be happy. But I think that’s her. That’s her. She’s not really aware that he’s alone. He’s just her dad. So I think it took a minute for her to kind of adjust. So maybe she’s against it a little bit at first.
For a lot of kids who see these movies, this is sort of their gateway to meeting monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein. Do you remember your first exposure to these iconic characters?
Samberg: Yeah, I mean, probably either the original or second iterations of them. It was definitely black-and-white on public access television or something. I feel like I remember being a kid and seeing like, Frankenstein with Abbott & Costello, stuff like that. And then, Young Frankenstein for me was obviously major, but I never got wildly into the horror version of it because by the time I was watching them as a kid, they seemed kind of old.
I feel like these monsters are actually flipped correctly into this franchise because to generations now that have Saw and stuff like that, these monsters are actually kind of fun and silly, and like you’ve seen them on Count Chocula and Franken Berry and stuff. It’s definitely been watered down, and horror has changed.
Gomez: It’s true. I was first exposed for Halloween. I think that was kind of when I knew. But my family started me on Chucky and Jason and Freddy. I knew all those first. So these characters were very comforting when I was younger. They never seemed frightening.
Do you watch your own stuff? Is this easier cause it’s animated?
Samberg: I definitely watch them. I watch almost everything I do just to learn, you know. To see how it turns out and see the people I work with, see what choices they made and stuff like that.
Gomez: Same, I guess. I’ve been very focused on music the past two years, but I would do the same thing.
What’s the best thing about playing an animated character?
Samberg: You get to go huge with your performance and not be judged.
Gomez: For me, I have to be honest, I love staying connected to the littles. Like it’s just something that I really, really miss. It kind of sounds weird to say but I loved being a part of a show that was centered for families and kids. It seemed fun and easy, and there’s nothing better than making a kid smile genuinely. Especially in what we do.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is out July 13.